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Toyota Cold Engine Ping

dq1dq1 Posts: 44
edited March 27 in Toyota
I've been working through Toyota Customer Assistance to figure out this ticking (possibly pinging?) noise coming from the engine of my '01 Celica when it is COLD. The dealer insists it isn't the valves and it has to do with the fuel. He has my using the next higher octane (89) for a few tanks to see if that helps the problem. After one tank, no change. But, of everything I've read, engine ping happens when an engine is hot, not when it's cold. Is that true? When the engine warms up, it sounds fine. Any suggestions or insights are appreciated.


  • Yes, it doesn't sound like pinging. It sounds like either valves or the injectors clicking...of course, it could be any number of other things but usually on a cold engine one of those two is it.

    Pinging is hardly a "mystery noise". It's about as subtle as an elephant with a church bell around its neck---I am surprised that this sound wasn't either identified or dismissed right off by the dealer.

    Noisy injectors are easily diagnosed by a stethoscope; pinging by a test ride in which you load the engine (up a hill in a higher gear); and valve noise is rather obvious.

    So tell somebody at the dealership to put the doughnut down and come listen to your car.
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    A couple more questions for you. The dealer insists it's not the valves and that "valve adjustments on these cars are unheard of!" That being said, can he tell by one test drive when the car is cold that it's not the valves? He insists he can and that the noise is absolutely not mechanical. (He must have better ears than a bat!)

    Are noisy valves or injectors when the car is cold anything to worry about. I only have 35k miles and was hoping to hold onto this car for at least 150k miles. A valve job costs about $800 since a system of shims is used :(

    Also, I noticed the sound was much worse about a month ago when morning temps here in Orlando were in the 30's. Now that it's a good 65 degrees in the morning, it's not so bad. Would a cold temperature change like that have any affect on the fuel grade being the cause? I'm worried that my engine is slowly being torn up when its cold.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    This sounds very similar to what I am experiencing with my Maxima! In my case it sounds like a sawing machine, and the noise is in sync with the revolutions of the motor - rev it up and the frequency increases proportionally.

    Happens on very cold morning starts (if my car was not in the garage) and lasts for about five minutes. Best experienced under moderate acceleration - if you feather the gas pedal (i.e. very little load) there is no noise, or if you rev the engine up (above 4K RPM, say) - again no noise. Happens only under moderate acceleration, and is gone after the engine warms up.

    I have just over 30K miles on the car.

    Any ideas?

  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    You've exactly described my scenario... Sync'd with the revs, and now that I think about it, it is most noticeable under moderate acceleration. Mine only started doing it about 4k miles ago. Is your sound fairly new too?
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    Yes - the noise in my case started only 5-6K miles ago. I have had no noise during the previous two winters.
  • You know, I don't have the reference material right here---but are these cars equipped with hydraulic lifters or mechanical (adjustable)?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    the maintenance schedule includes valve clearance adjustment at periodic intervals.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    I think it's unlikely that what we hear is valve clatter. Lifter noise is also unlikely, IMO, as lifter noise normally goes always within a few seconds of staring the car.

    I am wondering if it could be related to the timing chain somehow. Maybe the chain tensioner? Does the Celica use a timing chain? I know my Maxima does. Just a thought.
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    Yes, my '01 Celica has a timing chain, and I think you're right that its probably not lifters or valves. Is their a tensioner on the chain?

    I had a very interesting observation over the last couple of days. This past Thurs. I had an oil change (same Castrol oil from the same dealer) and that seemed to help quiet the engine down. Not sure if this is relevent, but it seemed to make a bit of a difference.

    Nippon - I checked my maintenance manual and there is nothing about valve clearance adjustments at any of the service intervals. According to the service director, valve clearance adjustments on these cars are almost unheard of. I'm not sure if the Maxima calls out for the periodic adjustment or not.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,641
    Now that's not good diagnosis, if I may wave my little finger at you LOL!

    It could very well be valve noise. If the clearance is abnormally wide, it will not go away when the engine warms up. Also, some defect with the camshaft, camshaft oiling, etc., might cause this.

    Timing chains can make all kinds of weird noises, that's true.
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    solve all problems Mr. Shiftright! I've seen dealer mechanics talk themselves into bad diagnosis plenty of times, lol.

    Anyway, does it give you any insight that I got a significant noise reduction with my oil change. I was running Quaker State (not my choice, but what another dealer put in) when this noise showed up. Now that another dealer is putting Castrol in, it doesn't sound as bad.

    Could it possibly be some sludge not letting the cold oil circulate properly until it warms up? I've heard QS oil can cause oil sludge relatively faster than other oils. I change oil every 3k to 4k miles religiously.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Posts: 398
    I doubt this is oil related. I change my oil regularly with Mobil 1. The oil change seems to make no difference in my case.

    I experience this problem very rarely lately, because, firstly, it is no longer so cold out; and secondly, I don't keep my car out overnight most of the time.

    Another interesting observation - I was on a long trip in very cold weather and after driving non-stop for 300+ miles I stopped for gas and got the same sawing machine noise when pulling out of the gas station!

    It seems like this is caused by some component that is far away from the combustion chambers, and got cooled down due to the long highway driving. But once you drive though traffic the engine heat gets distributed throughout the engine compartment and the noise is gone.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,641
    Hmmm...wish I could listen to it.

    I suppose if you changed to an oil that flowed better when cold, this might decrease noise. I recall one Saab I had was quieter at start up when I swithed to synthetic for instance. That was timing chain noise, easily heard because on that car (older Saab 900) the front of the engine faced the firewall.
  • alcanalcan Posts: 2,550
    If it is an ignition ping or spark knock, it might be EGR related. EGR reduces combustion temp to lower NOx emissions but doesn't operate until the engine's warmed up, to improve cold driveability.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,641
    Do you ever hear this noise at idle?
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    this at idle. When the engine is cold and I run it up to over approx. 3,000 rpm's is when I start to hear it. I never rev it over 4,000 rpm's when it's cold. The higher the rpm's, the faster the rate of noise. It occurs on both acceleration and deceleration, but not at idle.
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    Out of curiosity, when I got home this afternoon, I listened to my engine idle for a while. I can hear a ticking that is slower and is a different pitch than the injectors. As I gradually revved the engine up to 1k rpm's, the rate of the ticking increased.

    Unfortunately, when I put my ear up to the valve cover, the injectors are so loud, they drown everything else out. I actually have to be slightly away from the car (or in the cabin) to hear it. Now I'm back to thinking it needs a valve adjustment.

    Here's the million dollar question: How do I get the Service Director to acknowledge the ticking when he insists it can't be the valves or anything mechanical? He swears these cars never need valve adjustments. Also, if it is a ticking valve and the dealer won't fix it under warranty (I'm not paying the $800 they want for the adjustment), is this damaging the engine in any way?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,641
    If they are adjustable lifters and the noise is pretty light, no I don't think it hurts anything but I don't want to distract you from further investigation of the real cause--just in case you are hearing the beginning of a problem.

    You may have to just give up and yet still insist that he mark on a repair order that you've complained about a ticking sound that matches engine rpm. That way you have something on record after the warranty expires.

    The dealer is certainly not going to tear down your engine looking for an unknown source of the noise.

    I would think he'd readily diagnose the noise as lifters since this would be profitable for his shop. Maybe he doesn't want to risk being wrong, I don't know.
  • dq1dq1 Posts: 44
    I had an interesting observation today that was odd that I thought I'd mention to you to see if you've heard of this before. At the start of this discussion, I mentioned the dealer had me try a higher grade of gas. I ran 2 tankfuls and didn't notice any difference. Last night, I went back to 87 octane (I was down to about 1 gallon left of 89). Then today after I had put probaby 40 miles on since the fill-up, the engine started sounding like a buzz saw when I would run it up to about 4k rpm's. If I went over 4.5k rpm's it disappeared. Could this have been due to the engine's computer adjusting to the lower grade of gas?

    At first I thought I had abruptly developed some new rattle in my dash, but it only did it in a small part of the rpm band and has since disappeared. Strangest thing.

    I'm becoming afraid to walk in front of my car for fear it will start itself up and try to run me down, lol.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,641
    It's possible an engine could run smoother on higher octane, since higher octane really is all about a more even-burning type of fuel.
This discussion has been closed.